Tony Stewart's rough racing rubbing other drivers the wrong way

Posted: Thursday, May 20, 2004

CONCORD, N.C. As the twisted fenders mount in the Nextel Cup Series garage area, so does the angry finger-pointing.

Drivers are not amused by Tony Stewart, who has initiated bumps and crashes in six of the last seven races.

Car owner Joe Gibbs has been forced to take time away from mini-camps and drawing up new plays for the Washington Redskins to defend Stewart. He said Stewart has come a long way since his more-turbulent tirades of his 2002 championship season -- a season that included fines by NASCAR and his sponsor.

"I think Tony has grown up immensely," Gibbs said. "I think he's matured a lot. I take the approach that the drivers will take care of that themselves. They generally work that out."

Jeff Gordon was the latest to get body-slammed by the temperamental driver. He got pushed toward the Turn 2 wall at Richmond last Saturday night following a re-start.

Stewart claimed his car lost traction and slid into the side of Gordon's. He tried to apologize after the race, but Gordon said it's getting more difficult to forgive and forget.

Stewart blames the attention for his problems on the Fox Sports announcing crew of Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and Darrell Waltrip. He said that group has created controversy when there isn't any he blames Waltrip in particular.

During the May 2 race at the California Speedway, Waltrip responded to a collision by Stewart into Rusty Wallace by saying, "What's wrong with that boy?"

"I don't know what's wrong with the guy," Wallace said. "He's really screwing up lately. I'm about sick of his childish actions. The boy needs to grow up a little bit."

The focus on Stewart started at the Darlington (S.C.) Raceway in March when he slammed into a lapped car driven by Andy Hillenberg. That wreck forced Gordon into the wall and to a 41st-place finish. He also ran into Kasey Kahne during that race.

Since then, he has crashed into Scott Wimmer and Wallace at Bristol and Ryan Newman and Wallace at Martinsville. His bump of Kurt Busch at Talladega triggered a 10-car pileup on the backstretch. And after the race, he tried to make a U-turn on the "cool down" lap and collided with Terry Labonte.

But Stewart insists the real problems are with the television announcers.

"Nobody else is complaining about it," Stewart said during a pre-race interview at Richmond. "I think it's funny: I keep watching replays of the race after I get home and listening to Darrell and Mike Joy and McReynolds, you keep watching the screen and waiting for Tattoo to walk by in his little white tuxedo and say, 'Welcome to Fantasy Island.'"

Jamie McMurray said the controversy will die down once Stewart learns to relax.

"Tony needs to chill out," he said.

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